(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Sep 20, 12:24 PM EDTKremlin says referendums to be held in separatist regions of Ukraine
The Kremlin made a series of dramatic announcements Tuesday, signaling its response to its failing military campaign in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said referendums will be held later this week in Russian-backed regions of eastern and southern Ukraine for people to vote on whether to join Russia.
Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, called the proposed vote “sham referendums” in a post on Twitter.
“Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land,” Kuleba said. “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.”
Depending on the results of the referendums, which critics say is a foregone conclusion, Russia will suddenly consider territory it has occupied in Ukraine as its own.
Meanwhile, legislation is being rushed through the Russian parliament, laying the ground for a general mobilization of men aged 17-27, an age range that could be expanded.
Russian state media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his minister of defense will address the nation Tuesday night.
According to a Moscow-based military analyst, even parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas, which are not currently controlled by Russian forces, will be considered Russian territory.
After its apparently successful offensive in northeastern Ukraine, the Ukranian military now appears to be pushing further east and is contesting areas of the eastern Donbas region.
In a highly symbolic moment, Ukrainian forces claim they have retaken a village in Luhansk, in the northern part of the Donbas, an area the Kremlin took control of in July.
Sep 18, 4:01 PM EDTZelenskyy says preparation underway to liberate all of Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday that he interpreted a lull in fighting after a series of victories by his country’s military forces as preparation for the liberation of all of Ukraine.
“Maybe now it seems to some of you that after a series of victories, we have a certain lull,” Zelenskyy said.
He went on to say, “this is not a lull. This is preparation for the next series. To the next series of words that are very important to us and must sound. Because Ukraine must be free … all of it.”
Ukrainian troops made good on Zelenskyy’s call to take back lands claimed by Russian forces with an aggressive counteroffensive over the past week in the country’s northeast region.
Ukrainian officials said their forces drove out the Russian in two key areas in the Kharkiv region and are not going to let up.
Sep 18, 1:59 PM EDTBiden says China not supplying Russia weapons to use in Ukraine
President Joe Biden said in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes that it does not appear China is sending weapons to Russia to use in Ukraine.
“Thus far there’s no indication that they’ve put forward weapons or other things that Russia has wanted,” Biden said in the clip from the interview released Sunday.
That’s consistent with the message his administration has repeatedly shared for months. But it doesn’t mean China has stopped helping Russia in other ways, including purchasing Russian oil.
Biden recounted how he had previously told China’s President Xi Jinping that if he thought “Americans and others are gonna continue to invest in China based on your violating the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, I think you’re making a gigantic mistake. But that’s your decision to make.”
Biden also said he does not think there’s currently a “new, more complicated cold war” with China, as the interviewer, Scott Pelley, put it.
-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson
Sep 18, 12:06 PM EDT’True face of aggression’: Ukrainian ambassador condemns Russia over mass grave
Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, accused Russia on Sunday of committing “war crimes of massive proportions” after a mass grave was discovered in Ukraine.
“It’s tortures, rapes, killings. War crimes of a massive proportions,” Markarova claimed in an interview with ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “That’s why we need to liberate the whole territory of Ukraine as soon as possible because clearly Russians are targeting all Ukrainians. Whole families. Children. So, there is no war logic in all of this. It’s simply terrorizing and committing genocide against Ukrainians.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address on Thursday that a mass grave was found in the recently recaptured territory of Izyum. Over 400 bodies could be buried in the site, according to Ukrainian officials.
Markarova said the majority of the bodies recovered from the site are Ukrainian, including entire families. She also said most of the remains showed “clear signs of torture.”
She said an investigation of the mass grave is underway and that with the assistance of the United States her country is continuing to prepare national and international criminal cases against Russia.
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, despite evidence otherwise.
“It’s so important for everyone to see the true face of this aggression and terrorist attack Russia is waging,” Markarova said.
-ABC News’ Kelly Livingston
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